The ever-changing landscape of Leeds’ bars

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about unforeseen circumstances in unprecedented times, which has led to the sad demise of many grassroots music venues — including bars. While this has happened up and down the country, the closure of some of Leeds’ favourite haunts has occurred. And we aren’t out of the woods yet.

Let us explore what’s survived and what’s suffered, to help you know where you’ll still be able to go to on your next music-fuelled night out in the city…

Drinks in another favourite Leeds bar,
Headrow House

Bad Apples Rock Bar announced last month that it will not be able to reopen following the Coronavirus pandemic. Based at the top of Call Lane, the dual-floored alternative music venue has gained a cult following for its eclectic décor, live music and boisterous rock nights. But alas, its eight-year run has come to an abrupt and demoralising end, due to the financial pressures created by COVID-19. A message on Bad Apples’ Facebook page captures the unique spirit of the venue: “We want to thank sincerely every person who came and partied with us over the years, the bands that rocked the boneyard, and anyone who didn’t get thrown out.”

During the last couple of days of July, a statement from the owners of the Mission and Tunnel bars was released, outlining that they will be shutting the doors of both venues. The two sister clubs are part and parcel of LGBTQQIAAP+ history of Leeds, which have provided safe spaces for all communities over several decades. Furthermore, Mission had only just undergone a massive interior refurbishment boosting its speaker system up several notches!

Mission has hosted many big dance events and DJs over the years, with its unusual location underneath six Victorian railway arches adding to a heady atmosphere. And, if it was to close, it would mean that the city loses another of its already-dwindling number of late-night superclubs.

In a show of unity, Mission revellers from over the years have joined together to launch a GoFundMe page in order to raise pounds for the cash-strapped clubs, so the party may not be over just yet. Here’s hoping it’s not Mission Impossible.

All the while, the ever-changing landscape of Leeds bars has affected another one of our favourite drinking digs and music venues, Oporto. But thanks to the incredible #saveourvenues campaign, this plucky little pint-pouring joint has been rescued. Although its dinky, cloakroom-sized gig venue is on the small side, it’s the intimacy of the space that makes events so special here. You feel part of something exciting and exclusive, and you just can’t beat that.

Gig space at Oporto — The LaFontaines, 2018

Oporto’s reprieve has also saved its restaurant residency, Knave’s Kitchen. With the rise of plant-based diets, its popularity as a humble vegan junk food establishment has grown twofold. So it would’ve been a shame to have lost it due to the pandemic fallout. 

It’s hard to describe how buzzing the feeling of returning to Oporto — and all the independent Leeds bars — will be. And that won’t just be for drinks; the emotions will be running at an all-time high when gigs are back on the table. 

There’s still a long way to go to protect our favourite watering holes, and the landscape of Leeds’ bars is constantly evolving because of it, but we hope to come out the other side even stronger. Watch this space.

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Co-written by Robbie Roffe

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